Unraveling stories of refugees in Kathmandu

By: Krishan Rajapakshe

Kathmandu is the city of many stories. It’s colourful and very lively. Every corner has its own story to tell to the visitors who come to the city. But, most of the people in Kathmandu don’t know there is a refugee community living in the city. The concern for the refugees got into the focus of attention very recently-when Rohingyas escaped to Kathmandu.  Here are some untold stories of the refugees from Myanmar who aspire for a  dream to have a secured and settled life to come true one day!

My Name is Thannai. I am from Myanmar. But in Nepal, I have chosen to live by a different name, Roshan. I came to Nepal in 1989. It’s almost 30 years now. I was part of our historical uprising in 1988 demanding Democracy and Freedom for the People of Myanmar. Being part of the uprising, I had to flee from my country. Now I am 60 years old. I spent the golden years of my life as a refugee. Still I am waiting for my new life. Every day I go to bed with the hope that tomorrow I will receive a call from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): “Roshan, Get ready to start your life”


Roshan is one of many refugees from Myanmar living in Kathmandu, under the protection of UNHCR.  More than 600 people are having as urban refugees in accordance to its mandate. Most of them are Rohingya and also some are from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iran.

The refugees in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal are living a hard life. Even though UNHCR accept them, the government is considering urban refugees as illegal migrants. There are other serious concerns that need to be addressed. Until 2016, UNHCR was providing some financial assistance for refugees which has been stopped recently making their life in the valley much harder.  Most of the refugees have to work illegally to sustain themselves and in turn get exploited at the work place.

Jaafer Ali, who escaped from Myanmar to Nepal with his family in 2014 worked for a building contractor. He was promised to be paid at the end of the project. He recalls. “I have worked for him for a year. He (the contractor) kept telling till the end of the project he will pay all the money. We can’t demand because we are working illegally here. If he informed the police or other authorities it would create additional problems for us. In the end, without paying anything he just disappeared. The only place we can go to is the UNHCR. But we already know their answer. We’ll try!

At the same time, the refugee children are also facing serious problem in Kathmandu. The public school system is seriously dysfunctional and with the  UNHCR  reducing educational support for refugee children, their access to education has been at stake.

Kumar Suresh, a father of 3 kids, is struggling to get his children continue with education. “These days our children have support only until class 8. After that? When they ask me about their education as a father what can I answer? My political activism was the reason our whole family had to escape. But my children are now suffering twice as much. Their future is uncertain. We can’t plan anything in our life. All decision are pending on somebody‘s else hand.

For any correspondence please contact 1984ksr@gmail.com.

1 thought on “Unraveling stories of refugees in Kathmandu

  1. Most of the people in Kathmandu don’t know there are urban refugees of nine communities living in the city. (Pakistan, Afghanistan,Sri Lanka,somalia,Myanmar, congo, iran,iraq,bangladesh)

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